Tuesday 20 March 2018

Concerns over low conviction rate of clerics accused of abuse

Teresa Devlin
Teresa Devlin

Sarah MacDonald

The head of the Catholic Church's safeguarding watchdog has expressed concern at the low conviction rate of those accused of child sexual abuse.

Teresa Devlin, CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCCI), said just 4pc of all allegations result in a conviction.

Ms Devlin was commenting on the findings of the latest tranche of audits by the watchdog which examined 53 allegations made against 44 priests, brothers or nuns across 20 religious orders.

The allegations cover the period between 1941 and 2009 and resulted in no criminal convictions, which Ms Devlin said is "very, very hard".

Speaking to the Irish Independent, she said: "Coming forward with an allegation is probably the hardest thing that anybody does because there are so many barriers in their way."

She said in a huge number of these cases it was difficult to get a determination of guilt or innocence, although in some instances the person accused was exonerated.

The focus of the three in-depth audits published yesterday were on the Legionnaires of Christ, whose late founder, Mexican Fr Macial Maciel, was instructed in 2005 to retire to a life of "prayer and penitence" on the orders of Pope Benedict over allegations of sexual abuse, fathering a number of children with different women, and drug taking.

Four allegations were made known to the Legion of Christ from 1975 in respect of four member of the order. The other two orders examined were the Sisters of Mercy and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The Sisters of Mercy is one of the biggest religious congregations in Ireland and 31 allegations of abuse were made against 17 members across the four provinces in Ireland.

One allegation made in 2012 claimed a Sister, who worked in a school, had been accessing child pornography and having a relationship with an unidentified student.

However, the garda investigation concluded the Sister had not been accessing child pornography and the allegation in relation to the student was withdrawn.

The congregation was previously investigated by the Ryan Commission into abuse in residential institutions. The reviews found that though the Mercy Sisters, the Legionnaires of Christ and Oblates of Mary Immaculate "had significant challenges to address from the past" positive strides have been made to ensure the environments within which they currently work have good safeguards for children.

The Oblates received allegations against 13 members of whom 5 are retired, one is out of ministry, one is in ministry, and six are deceased.

Another 17 orders and congregations which have limited ministry with children and have not received allegations of child sexual abuse against their members were also examined in this tranche.

Irish Independent

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